Who should defend this country? Is it only the incumbent government and its leaders? Aren`t Opposition politicians and other prominent Sri Lankans duty bound to stand by the country when it is in trouble? These questions may have occurred to one upon reading/hearing UNP Spokesman Lakshman Kirielle`s statement yesterday on the President`s decision not to attend the UN General Assembly this year.
Kirielle has urged President Mahinda Rajapaksa to be present in New York and defend the country at a time various allegations are being levelled against it and faulted him for sending the government`s `B` team to the UN and shirking his responsibility. Why the President is not attending the UN we do not know but we reckon there must be a very valid reason for his decision: Else, he would not have been able to resist temptation to take wing for the US with a planeload of cronies in tow.
As for defending the country, President Rajapaksa has surpassed all his predecessors by achieving a feat believed to be impossible for nearly thirty years. He militarily crushed the LTTE within three and a half years of his induction and effectively neutralised a severe threat to the country`s territorial integrity. What more could be expected of a leader when a country is faced with the threat of dismemberment? Once we likened the President`s military campaign against the LTTE to a world war as several powerful countries threw their weight behind the LTTE in all but name.
The Opposition`s support for war was noticeable by its absence. Kirielle himself sought to ridicule the war effort by claiming `one gonekuta yuddha karanna puluvan` (Any fool could wage war). But, strangely, after the LTTE was decapitated, UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe congratulated President Rajapaksa on his military victory!
It is not being argued that the UNP is any less patriotic than the SLFP. The UNP has lost more leaders than the SLFP at the hands of terrorists and was responsible for transforming a military once confined to constabulary duties into a modern fighting outfit. Even the present UNP leader was instrumental in clearing many parts of the Eastern Province during President D. B. Wijetunga`s brief tenure (1993-94). Most of the military personnel including high ranking officers who spearheaded the Vanni onslaught that killed Prabhakaran and other top LTTE leaders had been recruited under UNP regimes. Present Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, too, fought valiantly against terrorism and proved his mettle under the JRJ and Premadasa governments.
The point we are making is that the main Opposition party, be it the UNP or the SLFP, has always let its greed for power take precedence over the national interest and resorted to action that benefits terrorists and other enemies of the country.
The SLFP, when it was in Opposition, never cooperated with UNP governments on war. Some SLFP leaders audaciously claimed that the war against the LTTE was `unwinnable`. During the second JVP uprising, it may be recalled, Mahinda Rajapaksa himself went running to Geneva to turn international opinion against the then UNP government and only succeeded in tarnishing the image of the country in the process.
The JRJ and Premadasa governments were left with no alternative but to quell the JVP insurrection, which also took a heavy toll on the SLFP. But, the SLFP shamelessly sought expedience by condemning the UNP for violence while being a beneficiary of the latter`s counter terrorism. The UNP is doing likewise at present. It is cashing in on the government`s difficulties at the expense of the national interest.
The UNP is the alternative government, though its leaders seem to have ruined its chances of making a comeback in the near future. Therefore, it, too, has a duty to defend this country. At a time there is a witch-hunt against the Sri Lankan military, UNP leaders ought to take up the cudgels for the brave security forces personnel who made selfless sacrifices to defeat terrorism and make the country safe for all of us. Will the UNP worthies making very patriotic pronouncements from political platforms for public consumption make common cause with the government to keep the enemies of State at bay? That won`t be a favour for the government but the country.